An Australian-Belgian Gentleman in Belgium (but really in Australia)

The last post I submitted to this website is now a good year and four months old.

In that time some pretty big things have happened:

  1. I became Belgian. I’ve been meaning to blog about that process since the day it happened (January 27th, 2014) but for the following two points never did.
  2. I went on a working holiday back to Australia. I’d been thinking about doing this since about the time I started the Ghentleman blog, but always put it off for work reasons. I’d been coming back to Australia every eighteen months or so, but only ever for a fortnight at a time. 2014 has been more or less entirely spent in Australia, visiting deserts, oceans, mountains – and many many libraries from where I’ve been working.
  3. Running a business from abroad. One of the biggest concerns about the trip to Australia was just how well (or at all) I’d be able to perform my consulting duties for my clients back in Europe. Turns out it wasn’t nearly as hard as I suspected. With little more than email and the occasional Skype phone call, I’ve been working nearly as much as I used to back in Belgium and really enjoyed the ‘night shift’ that comes about by working through an Australian day whilst Belgium is sleeping.Further, there’s something really special about plugging into some work in the middle of a public library in the middle of Australia that gets you motivated to pump out some quality work.

As a result of the above three points I’ve all but neglected this blog. However at the same time this blog was dedicated to my “Ghent times” – not so much my “Australian times” – so perhaps it’s for the best.

My Australian times are now on their last weeks, and I should be back in the land of chocolate and beer within a few months.

I’m really looking forward to my first (of hopefully many) pintje at Het Spijker, and fundamentally miss my weekly shops at Colruyt. Such a good shop.

(In)experienced Swimming coach fights school slag

School slag: the secret is to never, ever, ever let your head anywhere near the water.
School slag: the secret is to never, ever, ever let your head anywhere near the water.

In an effort to starve off the ever expanding belgian-beer related belly, I decided to make for the pool and rekindle an old love of swimming. I started off attempting to do laps at the local pools of Ghent, only to find that most of them were occupied by the Belgians that had lacked the desire to get wet let alone swim.

Belgians, on a whole, absolutely despise swimming pools. Some of them might attend one out of guilt (beer-belly), social pressure (schools), or hormones (people in speedos), but very few of them actually go to their local pool to swim.

All this was true, however, until I discovered the Rozebroeken, built in 2011 in the eastern outskirts of Ghent. Rozebroeken is an indoor 50 meter pool, with an incredible pool floor that is able to be raised and lowered from half a meter to a full two meter depth. Unlike the rest of the pools in the country, Rozebroeken makes very strict use of ‘lane ropes’, and encourages swimmers to swim laps instead of diagonal dog paddling.

All this however doesn’t change the Belgian approach to swimming. The majority of swimmers that attend the Rozebroeken swimming pool still thoroughly enjoy not getting wet, and will do their outmost best to keep their heads as far away from the creepy depths below. This is usually made possible with ‘school slag’ (their choice of words, not mine), which is a variation on breaststroke where the head is never placed under water. Instead of making the thrusting dive forward upon the completion of the stroke, the Belgian school slag swimmer thrusts his (or even her!) head as high as possible in an effort to raise the body fully out of the water and as close as possible to the pool exit.

It was during a moment of shaking my head at a good eighteen of these swimmers in my lane alone that I realized I had to do something about it. I just had to learn Dutch first. Two years later, I’ve started an IT consultancy (oh yes, that happened too. I should really blog on this some more sometime?) studied a whole bunch o’ dutch and have been working with quite some time in the middle of Flanders with a variety of dialects and mad folk. I thought I was ready to start some coaching.

So I wrote an email to the Royal Ghent Swimming Club confessing my case, and much to my shock received a pretty enthusiastic response asking me to come on down for an interview.

Slightly dull volunteer-job-recruitment-story cut short: I’m now a tentative swimming couch for thirty-one Flemish kids, starting off from tomorrow night. I’ve spent a good part of a week reading up on coach-tips and have had the fortune of hearing all about it first hand from some good friends of mine that have recently remembered their training past, and hope that some of this preperation, if any, will still be remembered or even slightly useful when I find myself in front of 30 squirming kids tomorrow afternoon.

Westvleteren almost acquired!

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After a mere 17 calls, I finally secured two crates of cherished Westvleteren beer for pick up next week.

For folks back home, Westvleteren is a notoriously hard beer to acquire, sold only from the brewery and limited to two crates per car, per 60 days.

The two crates can only be ordered, usually two weeks before hand, by calling the brewery “beer hotline” between 930 and 12.

This beer hotline appears to be a solitary cheery chap, gladly taking his orders in glorious West Flemish.

Today, is a good day!

Dan Deacon

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Of all the gigs I’ve been to here in Brussels, it’s very rare to see a crowd clap, let alone cheer and dance for a good two hours.

Dan Deacon brought the best out of his tribe of Belgians tonight, to the point that he even managed to rummage up synchronised dancing and… wait for it… singing (!) from his loyal troop.

Moral of this story? Dan Deacon can make even the undanciest if the dancer break out in sweet. Tonight was a night of celebration, though I’m still not sure of what.

Get your bass face on!

Robot Burgers

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On the ever continuing mission to fool myself into thinking burgers can exist no matter how far one is from New York, I ventured out to De Robot, one of the rising stars in the (novel to Belgium) bars with food, to sample their locally heralded cheese burger.

The bun was your stock standard Belgian roll, hard and crunchy but nevertheless useful at withstanding the epic (and perfectly cooked) patty within.

Nice slice of melted cheese and gloriously buttery onion, with salad on the side.

Odd choice of crisps in place of the norm-Flemish Fries, but overall everything felt as it should be.

If In-and-Out burger were a thousand kilometres closer I wouldn’t think twice about Robot’s burger again, but as this is indeed the wrong side of the Atlantic (and now also the wrong side of the channel – see Admiral Codrington in London for some truly inspiring buns) I must say that I will be back!

If anything the bar is warm and delightful with just enough delicious beers to wash down even the bluest of blues- this could very well be the new default of choice here in sunny Ghent.